Key trend­ing tech­nolo­gies in the Mid­dle East this year

Gulf News - - Technology -

The world of tech­nol­ogy has taken great strides across the Mid­dle East this year, with sev­eral sec­tors boost­ing strate­gies, spend­ing and in­no­va­tions in or­der to bring a glimpse of the fu­ture to­day.

The re­gion has been revving up its charge into more high-tech ser­vices. At the re­cent Gi­tex Tech­nol­ogy Week, the re­gion’s largest tech­nol­ogy show, sev­eral en­ti­ties flaunted their lat­est in­no­va­tions, such as the “Hover­bike” from Dubai Po­lice, a Rus­sian-made fly­ing mo­tor­bike; the Volo­copter, a Ger­man-de­signed pi­lot­less fly­ing taxi ex­pected to be in ser­vice by the end of 2017; and a huge number of im­proved smart ser­vices.

Across the globe, we are mov­ing from be­ing a digital econ­omy to a hy­per digital one. And one of the ma­jor rea­sons why this is hap­pen­ing is be­cause of what is com­monly termed as the democrati­sa­tion of tech­nol­ogy. New tech­nolo­gies and im­proved user ex­pe­ri­ences have em­pow­ered those out­side of the tech­ni­cal in­dus­try to ac­cess and use tech­no­log­i­cal prod­ucts and ser­vices.

At an in­creas­ing scale, con­sumers have greater ac­cess to use and pur­chase tech­no­log­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated prod­ucts, as well as to par­tic­i­pate mean­ing­fully in the de­vel­op­ment of these prod­ucts. In­dus­try in­no­va­tion and user de­mand have been as­so­ci­ated with more af­ford­able, user-friendly prod­ucts. This is an on­go­ing process, be­gin­ning with the de­vel­op­ment of mass pro­duc­tion and in­creas­ing dra­mat­i­cally as digi­ti­sa­tion be­came com­mon­place.

What we have seen in 2017:

Sev­eral trends ac­cel­er­ated this year. Most no­table has been ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI), which has been grow­ing tremen­dously. Ap­ple (Siri), Google (Google As­sis­tant), Sam­sung (Bixby) and Ama­zon (Alexa) have been main­stays for quite some time now, but sev­eral local com­pa­nies have de­ployed their own ver­sions of AI, such as Emi­rates NBD and its vir­tual phone bank­ing as­sis­tant, EVA. In fact, the UAE has spear headed the move­ment glob­ally by lay­ing out its Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence strat­egy and by also ap­point­ing its first min­is­ter of state for AI.

IoT po­ten­tial

And when we speak of AI, the In­ter­net of Things (IoT) also comes into play. Whether it be your ev­ery­day de­vices — smart­phones, wear­ables — to home ap­pli­ances and ve­hi­cles, the po­ten­tial of IoT seems lim­it­less, pro­vid­ing seam­less data trans­fers without the need of hu­man-to-hu­man or hu­man-to-com­puter in­ter­ac­tion. Soft­ the BSA Foun­da­tion, in a re­cent re­port, says that we would see as many as 50 bil­lion con­nected de­vices by 2020. And its world­wide eco­nomic gains are pegged to be even larger at $11.1 tril­lion (Dh40.7 tril­lion) an­nu­ally come 2025.

Vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) and aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) have also made head­way. Sam­sung and HTC, with their Gear VR and Vive, re­spec­tively, have been heav­ily pro­mot­ing their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ap­ple, mean­while, with its lat­est iOS 11 op­er­at­ing sys­tem for its mo­bile de­vices, is also mak­ing a push with ARKit. The com­bined rev­enue for the VR and AR seg­ments, ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search by the In­ter­na­tional Data Cor­po­ra­tion, is ex­pected to hit $162 bil­lion by 2020.

In the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor, the prepa­ra­tion for 5G has taken huge strides as well. Ac­cord­ing to Eric­s­son’s re­cent 5G Readi­ness Sur­vey, op­er­a­tors have boosted prepa­ra­tions for the new stan­dard of mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions, with tri­als be­ing car­ried out by 78 per cent of those they sur­veyed, com­pared to 32 per cent last year.

Twenty-eight per cent, mean­while, say that they would de­ploy 5G be­gin­ning next year. And ac­cord­ing to the new GSMA Re­port, Mid­dle East op­er­a­tors will be early adopters, among the first in the world, of 5G net­works with ex­pec­ta­tions of 50 mil­lion 5G con­nec­tions across the Mena re­gion by 2025.

Con­tact­less pay­ments have also made way re­gion­ally. In April, Sam­sung Pay was launched for re­gional users, while Ap­ple Pay was rolled out only this Oc­to­ber. While cash is still in­deed king in the re­gion, 75 per cent of users still pre­fer to pay via this method, ac­cord­ing to UAE Cen­tral Bank fig­ures. The in­tro­duc­tion of these two ser­vices in 2017 has set a new trend lo­cally and is cer­tain to trig­ger a wave of more ac­cep­tance thanks to its ease of use and pro­claimed se­cu­rity.

And let’s not for­get the milestones in en­ter­prise se­cu­rity adop­tion:

As tech­nol­ogy be­comes more com­plex and ubiq­ui­tous, com­pa­nies are also putting a pre­mium on se­cu­rity. Gart­ner, in a re­port is­sued re­cently, fore­cast that spend­ing on in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity alone in the Mena re­gion will reach $1.8 bil­lion this year, an 11 per cent in­crease from 2016. And spend­ing is ex­pected to grow even more as threats grow; the most no­table cy­ber-at­tack this year among many was the NotPetya virus, which caused mas­sive shut­downs, crip­pling sev­eral en­ter­prises across the globe.

In­vest­ing in pro­tec­tion

This year’s sev­eral large-scale se­cu­rity in­ci­dents have served as a re­minder for global as well as re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tions that us­ing out­dated meth­ods of pro­tec­tion do not make the cut. Or­gan­i­sa­tions now fully un­der­stand that en­ter­prise se­cu­rity can­not rely on block­ing and pre­vent­ing mech­a­nisms. The year 2017 has demon­strated to many the sig­nif­i­cance of in­vest­ing in se­cure net­works and pre­dic­tive tools and ser­vices us­ing ex­pe­ri­enced part­ners, who can ef­fi­ciently iden­tify weak­nesses, sup­port proac­tively and po­ten­tially pre­vent is­sues be­fore they arise.

The Mena re­gion has been quick to adopt key trend­ing tech­nolo­gies, and as we’ve seen in 2017, the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal trends — from AI, IoT to 5G and se­cure en­ter­prise trans­for­ma­tion — have kept us alert and ea­ger to see what emerges in the com­ing year across the re­gion’s quickly evolv­ing, dig­i­tally con­nected land­scape.

Rad­wan Mous­salli is the se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent for the Mid­dle East, Cen­tral Asia and Africa for Tata Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

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